To those involved in the Polynesian cultural arts, it’s a signal to prepare your pareu kiriau, ei katu and get ready to dance because the festival and dance competition season begins.
Tumu Korero and Taunga Ngarima George recently arrived in Las Vegas to visit his oldest son, Henry’s family. Papa G was immediately put to work as a judge at Ori Fest Las Vegas, a Tahitian solo dance competition that Henry’s dance group, Tevakanui, organises in late March.
Papa G was astounded not only at the number of contestants that participated (nearly 300), but was amazed at the high skill level the dancers exhibited when going through the elimination rounds. It was evident these dancers take their training quite seriously.
He later learned many dancers must drive between two to three hours one way to take lessons twice a week. Such dedication!
Another item that impressed him was the elaborate costumes. Las Vegas is a desert and one cannot run outdoors to grab croton, rauti, or tiare taina for making ei katu. Instead, strategic planning is needed to order and have air freighted from Hawaii, the appropriate flowers and foliage at a sizeable expense.
Papa G also noticed that most of the drum beats used for the dancers had Cook Islands origins, however, due to Tahitian influences, it was difficult to find the real “beat” to dance to because of the current “love affair” the musicians have with the “ ‘oro’oro” style of drumming where everything sounds fast and blended together.
Though dancers may be incredibly skilled technically, had wonderful showmanship and creative costumes, many were not the best at properly interpreting the speed of the beats that were played.
In mid-April, a trip was made to Santa Ana, California to attend the Te Here Ori Tahitian dance competition.
At the urging of his son, Papa G entered the dance competition in the 50+ age category. The audience went crazy when he danced! Like home, he said more ladies enter the dance competition compared to men. Consequently, it was an easy first-place win for the Taunga!